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Shocker Summer: They called him Soarin’ Warren

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, June 26, 2014, at 3:40 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, June 26, 2014, at 3:43 p.m.

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A look back at the players, coaches and moments that make up Wichita State sports history.

Check out our full Shocker Summer section for more stories.

Editor's note: This article originally was published in The Eagle in Jan. 1967.

Does Warren Armstrong take helium injections prior to Wichita State basketball games?

The astronomical heights which the Shocker All-America candidate reaches would suggest such a thing. The 6-foot-2 Warren, however, attributes much of his leaping ability to his prep days at Kansas City’s Central High School.

“We would jump rope 15 minutes a day and then run five laps before practice,” Armstrong recalled before a practice session last week. “We also had a weighted ball which we worked with … tipping it on the backboard for a while during practice. And we had a couple of other weight exercises.”

Armstrong felt that coach Jim Wilkinson’s (a graduate of Lincoln College) methods helped the whole team develop.

“I’m sure it did,” he said, “because a lot of our boys started dunking the ball shortly after the season started.”

Armstrong, who averaged 26 points a game and made high school All-America his senior year, admits he played for quite a high school team.

Three of his former teammates have gone on to play college basketball. Booker Brown is at Missouri. Robert Ross recently played against WSU as a Hardin-Simmons regular. Dave Griffith is at Lane in Tennessee.

Armstrong, however, was the most widely wooed of all the Central players.

The bull-shouldered junior carries 215 pounds over his 6-foot-2 frame. His huge hands suggest strength enough to strangle anacondas or crack walnuts at the snap of a finger. He can leap and touch a mark 11-foot-6 above the floor or a foot and a half over the rim of the basket.

He was sought by many schools and the final showdown was between of Missouri Valley foes, Cincinnati at Wichita State.

“Kansas was one of the schools I was considering,” remembered Armstrong. “I decided I didn’t want to play Big Eight basketball so that left it between Cincy and Wichita. I liked the people here and it was the closest school, so I came here.

Soarin’ Warren, dubbed “Batman” by WSU students, was a marked man a season ago when he brought his blue chip credentials into Gary Thompson’s varsity locker room.

As a sophomore, he carried them well.

He set a Shocker record of 323 rebounds for the year. Another new mark was 12 assists in a single game. He grabbed 20 or more rebounds 11 times, hitting the 25-grab level twice. He had a total of 124 assists for the season but still found time to score 445 points – 16.5 per game and second only to Jamie Thompson’s 595 points.

This season Armstrong, the oldest in a family of seven brothers and three sisters, has had his ups and downs. The Shocks have followed the same pattern en route to a 6-6 start.

A couple of weeks ago he was benched by coach Thompson, who felt his All-American candidate was not hustling.

How did Armstrong feel about this?

“I think it helped me and the whole team,” answered Warren. “I sat there on the bench and I knew I had been doing something wrong. He sat next to me. He (Thompson) knows what he is doing and he knew I had been doing something wrong.

“it’s up to an individual to realize he is not putting out,” Armstrong continued. “I wasn’t angry, really, I was appreciative. Sometimes you have to be told and shown. I certainly was.”

Armstrong rebounded form the benching with a fury. He has been playing up to capabilities since.

To date he is the only All-American candidate in the family. However, brother Michael is a regular now for the Central team. Another brother, Sheldon, recently scored 26 points in a junior high school game.

Warren’s future, although bright, isn’t yet on a fixed course.

“I hope to try professional ball I’d like to go at it a few years,” he said. “But I’d like to end up in public relations, teaching and coaching.”

Currently public relations has the inside track. He hopes to take postgraduate work in this field after he receives his physical education degree in June 1968.

Meanwhile, his entire attention is directed on WSU’s current Missouri Valley Conference race.

WSU plans were dented a bit at North Texas Monday. This, however, wasn’t unexpected. It didn’t surprise Armstrong.

They didn’t surprise us … we knew they’d be after us after we blasted them twice last eyar,” said Warren. “They have good ability. We weren’t overconfident. They were just ready for us. We’ve played worse and won.”

The loss, however, wasn’t considered fatal.

“We’re in second place,” Armstrong emphasized. “I can’t see how we can be counted out.”

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